This paper draws attention to the ways that free British emigrants made connections between a set of very different sites of colonization in southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand during the first half of the nineteenth century. The paper argues that a distinctive settler discourse was forged through correspondence across an imperial network, linking each of these sites with each other and with Britain. Within this correspondence, arguments were orchestrated not only against indigenous resistance, but also against British humanitarians' attempts to regulate colonial expansion. In constructing different notions of morally legitimate behaviour in the colonies, the paper will suggest that settlers and humanitarians were also disputing the proper qualities of Britishness itself. Their dispute informed dominant representations of raced and classed others, not only in these colonies of settlement, but also within the imperial metropole.